One of the first things that everyone does upon touchdown (other than releasing their seatbelt) after a flight, is to turn on their mobile phones and then try to latch onto free Wi-Fi to update their online status on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or to message their safe arrival on WhatsApp, LINE or WeChat, etc.
As free Wi-Fi isn’t that common throughout Japan yet, one of the first reliable options available to travellers was renting a mobile router.
Now, we have more choices than ever with an all-new alternative: renting a data SIM card for convenient and reliable Wi-Fi access, with carriers such as NTT and Softbank getting on board to offer data-only SIM cards targeting tourists.
Broadly speaking, there are 2 options when it comes to getting a data only SIM card – those you order in advance (which can be picked up at the airport, your hotel or a specified address in Japan), and those that you can buy in the airport/department stores in Japan.
Within these two groups, one has an additional two options: a SIM card that needs online activation (i.e.: you need to hunt for free Wi-Fi first) or one that doesn’t.
Personally, I’ve tried both and I prefer data SIM cards that do not require online activation. After all, if online access were so easily available why would there be a need for data SIM cards in the first place?
So-net offers LTE SIM cards at major airports such as Narita, Haneda and Kansai International Airport to name a few, as well as some retail outlets.
Others such as Iijmio’s Japan Travel SIM card are available at retail stores like Bic Camera or at Blue Sky, the airport convenience store, for example.
I found eConnect the most convenient as it did not require online activation. You have to pay for the delivery fee but it’s probably worth it for that extra peace of mind.
All SIM cards will require you to set up the Access Point Name in order to get a Wi-Fi signal.
Once the APN information data is entered correctly, the Wi-Fi sign will magically appear and your social network signal will flicker back to life!
Here’s a comparison table of the above-mentioned SIM cards.
|b-mobile PAYG SIM||eConnect Prepaid Data SIM||Japan Travel SIM powered by iijmio||Prepaid LTE SIM by So-net|
|Carrier||Japan Communications||NTT Communications||IIJmio||So-net|
|Where to buy?||Hotels: Hyatt Regency Kyoto, Kyoto Royal Hotel & SPAOnline Stores: b-mobile, yodobashi.com, amazon.co.jp*Electronic retailers: Yodobashi Camera*Retail stores: AEON, Dospara||Online||*Retail stores: AEON*Electronic retailers: Bic Camera, Softmap, Yodobashi Camera, etc.Airport convenience store: Blue Sky||Airports: Narita Airport, Kansai International Airport, Shinchitose Airport, etc|
|Online Activation Needed?||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Type of plan||Calls/Data||Data||Data||Data|
|Duration||Calls: 60 minutes (International & Local calls & SMS)Data: 3GB7 days||3GB for 30 days (3G)||2GB for 3 months||1GB, or 2.2GB for 30 days3GB for 60 days|
|Speed||4G & 3G||3G||LTE & 3G||LTE & 3G|
|Identification documents required||Passport||Passport||Passport||Passport|
|Cost||9,980 yen||4,700 yen||Set by retailer||3,000 yen (1GB) 4,000 yen (2.2GB) 5,000 yen (3GB)|
For a more comprehensive comparison review, click here.